Don’t Think Impossible with April Smith Jones
“Blaze your own trail… You can either get stuck because people are blocking you or find a different path and then you own it.” —April Smith Jones
In life, we often come up against impossible odds. But instead of succumbing to defeat, what if we refused to believe that our goal is impossible and instead blaze our own trail to make it happen? When we take this approach, we open up a world of possibilities. We become the master of our own destiny.
Being raised by her single mother and growing up on a dangerous street in South Central LA, April Smith Jones had many obstacles ahead of her. Taking full advantage of her opportunities, she completed college at UC Berkeley and then went on to earn her law degree from UC Hastings College of Law. Jones rose above difficult circumstances with determination, hard work, and an unwavering commitment to achieving her goals.
This week, JP and April open a way for us to break any impossibility. Listen in as they summarize entrepreneurship in a few meaningful words and discuss the importance of finding your win in every situation, being ready and adaptable in the face of change, practical steps to achieve productivity, how to keep your wit, and much more!
01:48 Meet April
05:07 How Law Has Evolved Over the Years
11:06 How To Do It All
15:51 Keep Your Wits
20:42 Work with April
22:31 Are You Willing To Do Whatever It Takes?
- 04:42 “Where you put your attention is what follows.” —JP McAvoy
- 10:57 “We all have needed to change the way that we’re doing things. It’s just the new reality.” —JP McAvoy
- 11:42 “It was really important to me that I take that satellite dish of Aprilness and turn it outward, and be useful and be helpful for other people.” —April Smith Jones
- 12:26 “Make the most out of whatever is presented to you because things are going to be hard. You’re going to need to pivot. If something changes, make it an adventure.” —April Smith Jones
- 13:00 “Finding the win in your situation is the key. It’s about getting from moment to moment to moment.” —April Smith Jones
- 14:10 “Blaze your own trail… You can either get stuck because people are blocking you or find a different path and then you own it.” —April Smith Jones
- 21:17 “People are learning from each other and you’re able to move faster than when you’re on your own” “Blaze your own trail… You can either get stuck because people are blocking you or find a different path and then you own it.” —April Smith Jones
- 23:29 “Don’t treat things as impossible. Just think, ‘what can I do if I was willing to do whatever it takes to get this done?’” —April Smith Jones
A Little Bit About April:
April’s belief is that setting your mind on a goal and doing whatever it takes to get it earns you the right to have it. Her life and successes attest to this strongly held belief that she has passed on to her three children and is driving them to succeed in their own right.
Raised by a single mother in South Central LA, on a thoroughfare between rival gangs, Jones was bussed into the Valley for school, went on to UC Berkeley for her undergraduate degree, and then to UC Hastings College of Law for her law degree.
While building her own highly successful law firm, Jones Law Firm, PC of Centennial, Colorado, Jones and her husband, Darryl (who also was raised in South Central LA) raised three extraordinarily successful children — a USC-educated Grammy Award-winning musician, a rocket scientist who played football for Princeton, worked for SpaceX building rockets and is now getting his MBA in business at Harvard, and a Harvard-educated neuroscientist who was in the top 10 of Miss America contestants.
JP McAvoy: Hello, and thanks for joining on today’s show. We’ve got April Smith Jones. She’s got a booming law practice, a coaching and mentoring business, and made many community contributions particularly in the Denver area. Here’s my conversation with April Smith Jones.
April, thanks for joining us here today, I guess from sunny Denver.
April Smith Jones: Yes, Sunny Denver with a little snow. Thanks for having me, JP.
JP McAvoy: Great to see you. As far as I’ve heard, there’s been a little snow this season.
April Smith Jones: Yeah. I worked out this morning, and it said it was 3 degrees outside.
JP McAvoy: That’s something to be wary of. And as you see the snow, how do you participate in snow sports? Do you participate in snow sports?
April Smith Jones: I do some skiing. I’m originally from Los Angeles. I moved here like 20 years ago. So it’s not the natural skiing my kids do where, if you fall, what kind of skiing? That’s a different type.
JP McAvoy: Yeah, exactly. Once it gets into it. What inspired the move from California? I have a number of friends that have relocated to that area, and they say they love it. What inspired you to move?
April Smith Jones: I moved back in 98. My kids were like two, three and five. My husband took a job out here and I said, what the heck? So that’s how deep that was? What the heck?
JP McAvoy: What the heck. And obviously, things have worked. Will you guys continue to be there? Is the plan to stay there?
April Smith Jones: The plan is to stay here. But we also have an office in California. So we have a Home Base in California as well. Some of the kids move back there. So we go back and forth.
JP McAvoy: You go back and forth. There you go. And so when you say office, that’s the law firm. Are you discuss it, the law firm–
April Smith Jones: Yes, the law firm. My law firm I’ve had for 22 years, I will probably refer to a lot like it’s a human in the family.
JP McAvoy: It almost starts to become one, right? It almost starts to feel like one. So what are the roots of that? And how has it grown over the years?
April Smith Jones: I graduated from law school in 91. I’m way older, like I live in California. And I work for a firm, like a private firm, which was my goal. I grew up back in LA. So I thought, that’s what I want to do. Got married, had a baby, and then another baby. And just really at the time, I was like, can’t tell these white men I’m pregnant again. And so I quit and started my own firm. That kid is 28. So obviously 28. Years ago, I started practicing for myself. And by the way, I have to put this out there as a lawyer. I speak to women and lawyers, work life balance and that sort of thing. And I had a young lawyer come up to me after one of my talks, and she told me that it’s called second child bias. The feeling that you need to quit because you’re having another baby. It’s an actionable thing. It’s real. And she’s like, I took your case 28 years ago.
JP McAvoy: Yeah. As you say as a lawyer, as the law has evolved there, there’s been an awful lot in all areas, that certainly being one. So you’ve predominantly focused on family law, right?
April Smith Jones: I actually started a general practice initially in California. And then when I moved to Colorado, I worked here for a little bit just to figure out what color the statutes were, the books. And then started the general practice again. So I had a general practice. I practiced for 22 years. And we were generally about 8 when the world wide web came out. How about that? When we moved from the large yellow page ads to the internet, that’s when I changed it to Family Law. Because when we were designing the website, the webpage, there was something back then called Flash. And so you click on something and it would blow up, and it was all exciting. Now, we’d like to throw our computers in the trash if we had to wait for it to pop and blow up when you click to work. But at the time, I had a picture for criminal law, and family law, and wills and trusts, and all these different things. But by the time I finished and was ready to launch my marketing company, it really impressed upon me that it’s easier to be known for doing one thing really well. And so I changed the criminal to protection orders. And the older couple, I changed the grandparent rights, and we’ve been doing family law exclusively ever since.
JP McAvoy: It’s interesting that you say that? Because the reality is that’s true. Where you put your attention is what follows. If you call yourself a family law lawyer, you become one. If you call yourself whatever, as a flash expert right back in the day, then you become a flash expert. So clearly you put it that way through an intention. How did the law firm evolve? I mean, to the point now where your firm, and you say it’s cool sizable in the area, and I’m sure he’s actually now making great use of the online presence that’s available to all of us, isn’t it?
April Smith Jones: Yes, absolutely. We started out, obviously it was me, I added over the years, over the decades. I think the largest I’ve been probably around the recession was 5 attorneys, 4 staff. So maybe like 8 or 9 people. And then there was the recession. The way I managed it is not how I would manage it now where I trimmed back, not how we did in the pandemic. In the pandemic, I said, nobody moves. We had just done a snow day experiment to be virtual. And I liked it. I was like, oh, what if we do our team meetings once a month in virtual? And they were like, no. We love all being together, we could never do that, April. And then I swear, it’s like two weeks later, it was March 2020. And because we had done it once, because I was prepared, I said, let’s just all go home rather than come to work, be worried. Let’s all take it virtual, everybody. Stick with the script. Do your thing. And different from the pandemic where it was kind of like a hot air balloon where I was like trimming people to manage, I was like, no one is going anywhere. Everyone stays, everyone’s going to stick together, and we’re going to get through this thing. And we actually got stronger, larger, better. And the trust built up for the company, inside the company because of that. That’s huge. And so I’ve got a fantastic team.
JP McAvoy: It was great to be able to say that. I mean, the fact that you say that, it’s actually been even better. Why do you think that’s happened?
April Smith Jones: I think initially just saying we’re a family and we’re sticking together, especially when people are scared to say we got this. We’re going to do this well. You don’t have to come to work and be worried. You can stay home and be worried. But that’s a different type of worry, right? And then we did like three webinars a week. We try on April Jones. Today, we’re talking about COVID-19, your family, your finances and your future. Our guest today is like, I did as–
JP McAvoy: Sounds like well rehearsed, by the way. So you’ve got and did a number of those. What’s the response to those?
April Smith Jones: It was fantastic. I called in favors like, I’m on a board with the owner of the Rockies, the baseball team. So I did come on and speak when baseball was shut down. I called them, take control of space. And what was really interesting, an alarm went off while we were in the webinar. And he was like, we’re supposed to be in Ohio right now. So it’s just like, how do you head up, shoulders back, walk it out, manage when baseball is shut down? If you can do it, how can you know the other mom and dad out here to figure it out too? So it was really good for the community. We took on domestic violence, we took on just whatever issues. A lot of people were having a struggle as you can imagine parenting, having co parent when there’s no school. You do your exchanges at school, you never have to see each other at the end, and now there is no school. And what if you think the one person’s an imbecile and they’re supposed to be helping with homework. I narrowed it down and we ended up making this COVID-19 guideline and book that had all the different scenarios because there’s so many, if you think your ex is a rogue and they will let the child go out, be in the community play and be exposed, and then come back home to your house where you live with your elderly mother, right? What’s the true difference between your ex is a hero and is exposed to potential COVID opportunities and now the child is exposed. So ultimately, once you just really just dug into it, how you protect yourself and what you do, it ended up being the same with or without the vitriol. So that’s a resource we became for the community. And it felt good to us, and it felt good to the community we serve.
JP McAvoy: I love that with or without the vitriol as well. So that in itself was a great slogan. We come out of the other side of it. Now obviously, as we talk post pandemic, what is the ramp up, or what does the new reality look like for you?
April Smith Jones: We are hybrid leaning towards more virtual. In fact, I think we owned our office space prior to the pandemic. During the pandemic, it’s a condo. So we bought an office condo, expanded, knocked the wall out, and it’s a beautiful office space. But I couldn’t house, I could probably house 30% of my team even with the two spaces now. So it’s really evolved into a hybrid, into a system where we really emphasize my best team, best time, best pay. That’s really what’s important to me. What’s the best time for you? And if that means you’re on Zoom, you’re having a meeting and you’ve got food in the crock pot, you just walked your dog and you’re sitting on your deck. Okay, that’s what I want. If you want to have a baby or climb a mountain all in the same month, not the same person. I mean, you could if you want. That’s a quiet person. That could happen. We had multiple attorneys doing different things at the same time, and that’s what I really have learned to celebrate. That was not the law firm I was in during the recession when we were putting ropes like we were on a hot air balloon and went lean and mean. We actually survived the recession, because we were leading. That’s very different from thriving, because we’ve expanded, and we’ve been thoughtful, and we’ve cared for ourselves, our team and our community. Completely different business entrepreneur.
JP McAvoy: Completely different from those firms you describe. You cut your teeth originally as well, right? Can you imagine the way those firms would have dealt with things some 20 years ago in the face of this, the old type of firm obviously had to change the way that they were doing things as well. We all have needed to change the way that we’re doing things. It’s just a new reality. Now, you’ve talked firm wise. You’re doing some coaching as well on the business side with clients. How does that work?
April Smith Jones: I’ve been in a situation where people ask a lot, how do you do what you do? How do you have three kids that are extraordinary? My children are older. They’re 26, 28, and 30. How did you do all that? That was when they were three in high school or reading college. And how do you have a firm? And how do you grow it? And how do you do it with a smile? I do not always have a smile, but people do ask me that. So that’s nice. And so I said, when I got to a point in my career where I had really poured into my own family, and my own business, and my own life, and my own relationships, it was really important to me that I kind of take that satellite dish of Aprilness and turn it outward, and be useful, and be helpful for other people. That’s been on my list the whole time. And now, it’s time. And that’s what I’ve been creating, a way to actually share that with other people in a way that they can implement it in steps, or in bite sizes, or whatever people need as they go through their own process.
JP McAvoy: Oh, that’s really effective. So let’s get into some concrete examples. How do we do that? What are the right steps?
April Smith Jones: Well, a lot of what’s important to me in living life is, I really like to have fun, and everybody’s not like that. But make the most out of whatever is presented to you because things are going to shock you, things are going to be hard. You’re going to need to pivot and just be able to be nimble enough to respond to whatever’s in front of you. If something changes, make it an adventure. If you just change how you think about what otherwise could be a big problem or something that’s really tanked your experience, then now you’re like, this is an adventure. I’m going to look at it differently. And this is how I’m going to find a win. So finding the win in your situation is really the key for me. And part of what my message is, it’s really about getting from moment, to moment, to moment. Because it’s those moments when they’re dark, or they’re scary, or you’re fearful, or you reasonably should be wondering what’s going to happen next, that’s where people fail. That’s the difference between the people who knock it out of the park because they were able to muster over, and over, and over. And the people who just stop.
JP McAvoy: And so what is the thing that these people have? Or do these people get through it? The successful ones.
April Smith Jones: So we have these pivot cards. So then these pivot cards with these little sayings and explanations, this one says, be a trailblazer. So that came about, I have three kids, we live in Colorado. As you know, they were probably like 5, 7 and 8. 6, 8, 10, something like that. I have two boys and a girl. The two boys were taking over the whole mountain and doing the sledding in the backyard. My daughter’s trying to figure it out. And I was like, just go blaze your own trail. Just go blaze your own trail. And so from that, I started calling her my Trailblazer girl. At the time, it was just what we were doing. But over time, she ended up going to Harvard. Top 10 in Miss America. She’s getting her neuroscience PhD, but a lot of Blazing your own trail. And so that’s a business principle as well. You can either get stuck because people are blocking you, big giant people, and you’re in your small. What do you want to do? Or you just find a different path and then you own it. And that’s one of the tips that I talk about when I’m coaching people. How do you take your situation? Find a different path, and then own it.
JP McAvoy: So it’s really the strength to persevere choosing a path up against the barrier to choose a way around it and to persevere through.
April Smith Jones: Right, over and over. And you need different tips for different things. Because I’m sure life comes at you in all different ways. And if you’re helping companies sell, you know what all they have to do to get to where they can make a phone call to you, and there’s a lot of pivoting and staying on the path between the time they start, the time that they get to call you and ask you for help.
JP McAvoy: Yeah, absolutely. What I see, and it seems like there’s a characteristic among entrepreneurs in what you’re describing, and there’s just no quit. They almost don’t understand the word that we’ve been discussing as persevering or using the same meaning as an obstacle, and then choose another path, go around and keep going. But this can’t quit attitude that I see for the most successful entrepreneurs, they’re not always successful. But whatever happens, they get up and they keep going. And that’s something important in business and in life, isn’t it?
April Smith Jones: Yes, it’s important in business and in life. One of my sayings was keep your wits about you, which is the same thing. Even in the movies, the people fall and you’re like, get up. Get up. You know when the things are chasing them, and then they’re backing on their back on the ground. But if they thought, you know what? I’m gonna look forward to it. I’m gonna find the path. I’m gonna run straight out of here. Then they would survive. And that’s just a huge part of life. Keeping your wits. When the music stops, you still have to keep singing. Keeping your wits when your best people say that they want to quit and you’ve got to be a project that has to be taken care of. There’s so much in being an entrepreneur. When you sum it up as saying you just don’t stop. But that means you kept going. You keep going over and over, which means you have to keep getting up and keep moving past obstacles. And that’s really what I like to talk about is the details of how you can keep moving. And I think that with my background, I’m from South Central Los Angeles, and I had to learn a lot of things on my own. I didn’t have mentors, and I didn’t have coaching and a lot of things that have made a huge difference for me. I had to grow up, seek that and then make those moves. So I like to work with people sooner when they’re older and just help at the outset.
JP McAvoy: The earlier you can, obviously. You saw some of those things, I guess, in South Central LA. Did you have the resources there? Did you have to go outside of the area to get those resources?
April Smith Jones: My mother was a teacher. So she taught in Compton, which is a public school in Los Angeles. They had a lot going on over the years. I was typically in private school. There was a point where I was bused. They had voluntary busing before mandatory busing in the late 70’s. So I was bused from South Central Los Angeles to the valley to like, oh, my God, I think Valley Girl valley. So I got the accent. When I’m sleepy, I can do Ebonics or valley girl. And I saw like two story houses and people with boats where you could watch the movie on the sail of the boat. And I was like, oh, my gosh, you gotta be kidding me. And a lot of that changed how I thought about what opportunities. I hate to say it, I know a lot from television, but to see it in person, and to be put in leadership positions then, and make new friends and just see what opportunities there were, that was a game changer for me. I was like, okay, I’m gonna do this. I’m going to do this. I want to do this. Who’s coming with me? Nobody? Okay, well, I’m just gonna go.
JP McAvoy: April, you started that at a very young age, obviously. Going back to what I said before, you put together in a certain way that led you to persevere?
April Smith Jones: Yeah, yeah, I did. I was fortunate. I was always like, as you can imagine, I was a smart little girl. I got the best grades in class. I mean, I had those 13 people in my class, but still. I didn’t know I was spinning on my block, which makes sense to me now. Maybe take my discord like, oh, yeah, you shouldn’t have not fit it. You should not have fit in on your block. But my mother thought I was fantastic. My grandparents thought I was fantastic. So when you have people in your life who just think you’re amazing and can do anything you want to do, they call me, anything you want to do. I’m great. Well, I want to do this. I want to do this.
JP McAvoy: You start your list and start checking them off one after the other. Okay. So it’s great to hear from your background and to where you are now. And as we speak of that list, are the things that you want to do and check off what’s on your list and go forward? What does the future hold for you?
April Smith Jones: Well, we do want to be the largest family law firm in Colorado. So we want to double and then kind of hold, and then really focus on best team, best time, best pay. So that’s where we are right now in terms of the company. But those things are in process. We’ve built the foundation, we have the resources. That’s just a matter of sticking with the plan and managing when the plan looks like it’s gonna go south and just keeping it straight. But the aprilsmithjones.com, that’s where we are really focusing on giving back and serving others. All the while, our law firm is denverdivorceattorneys.com. All well, that moves forward in a very elegant planned way. But the giving back is huge to me. I’m just now starting to develop that, having the time to do it and having the resources to do it. So that’s a big part of it.
JP McAvoy: That’s part of what this isn’t right now as well. So those are obviously wonderful places to find you and learn more of the project we discussed. What does business engagement look like? What’s your business coaching engagement with you look like?
April Smith Jones: So we have a couple different opportunities. You can work with me directly, and that’s an opportunity. If someone wants to actually have me be their resource for a year, we take a problem. And I do have whatever it takes type mentality. Whatever it takes. We can work through whatever your projects are, what your company is, or the things that are holding you back. But then, we also do group learning. And those are the ones that I really enjoy and find the most informative for people because people are learning from each other, they’re hearing from each other. And you’re able to kind of move faster when you’re in your own, when you’re just in your own head. So it’s just two different ways to look at it. And I’m open to either one, and available either way. And then I also do speaking engagements. I find those really helpful to just be able in different communities, people who look like me, people who just need to know that, yeah, you got this right. I mean, there’s a lot of successful people who have coaches, and have therapy, have counseling, and have a lot, and they’re super resourced. I can work with them too. And that’s great. But where the volunteer component comes in is where there are people who don’t have those and they need to hear it. That’s what I like to do for fun.
JP McAvoy: That’s great. That’s an important message. And as you say, people need to hear that. So that’s great. Thanks for taking us through, obviously, the firm and the way for doing the business coaching. I’d like to leave these episodes with one thing that people can take with them through the rest of the day, through the rest of the week after they’ve listened to this episode. What’s one thing that’s worked for you, April, in the past, you’ve given us a wealth of things during this conversation. But one thing that you’ve said, you keep this in mind, get your bearings and keep on the right path. What’s something that stuck with you that you’d like to pass on?
April Smith Jones: Well, there’s so many things. Something that I can give to people to take with them, I would say, don’t get stuck in thinking something’s impossible. When you’re looking at something and it just feels like you can’t make it happen? Think about what you would do if that was the only way you could take your next breath if you found that employee. It’s really hard to hire right now, right? Like for me, I need to hire an attorney and you’re just like, I can’t find a good attorney. But if you say I must find one, if you narrow your focus to, I must do this. I must find a new print company because my printers got my print company gone under. If you say I must do it, and then you do it. And you get all the people in your world to come together. You make the calls, you find the people, you get the second interview, you call the third interview, you check the references and report to me at 4:00 o’clock every day. Let me know what you did. You’ll see that you can hire somebody. I would say, don’t treat things as impossible. Just think, what can I do if I was willing to do whatever it takes to get this done?
JP McAvoy: That’s great stuff, April. Thanks so much for this. Thanks for sharing with us here today. I look forward to next time on The Millionaire’s Lawyer.
April Smith Jones: Thank you.